Shots of Wit

A regular posting of witticisms, aphorisms, and general musings by Clifford Cohen.

Promises promises…

I promise to do whatever I’ve already done.

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I guess I have a problem with the entire concept of what a promise is—what it really is. It’s supposed to be a commitment to do something in the future; it’s supposed to show intent to perform an action, to give assurance to someone that something will be addressed. However, there are perhaps no circumstances in which a promise per se has significant utility in our lives. If a person wants to reassure someone that a task will be carried out, what if the following was the communicational construct for doing so:

“I understand you need the lawn to be mowed, and that your garden party next weekend cannot take place until this is done. I do not want you to have to cancel the garden party. I expect to have time Tuesday at 3:00 p.m. to do the job.”

Is a promise really worth much in itself? Isn’t it better to confirm understanding of a need and provide a specific scenario under which work will be completed—a scenario that includes the who, what, when, where, and how of the work effort? Underlying this aphorism is the concept of action speaking louder than words. However, the aphorism goes farther: it undercuts the basic premise of a promise and replaces it with a commitment to value results over words.

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